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Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Road Bike by Black Mountain Cycles

Mike Varley of Black Mountain Cycles designed a steel bicycle frame and fork that works wonders for long rides over rough roads. But that's not news. Not around here.

In early 2014, after a year of riding gravel on a zippy cyclocross bike, and more than a little research, I built up a Black Mountain Cycles "monster cross" frame and fork as a durable, dependable bike for long rides on remote gravel and dirt roads. It's the most comfortable road bike I've ever ridden.

My Black Mountain has faithfully carried me through memorable all-day-and-into-the-night races, such as Odin's Revenge, Almanzo Royal, Dirty Kanza and Gold Rush Mother Lode, as well as many shorter races, weekend explorations, Black Hills BackBone and DoubleBackBone reconnaissance rides and attempts, sub-24 hour and multi-day bike packing trips and daily commutes. I love it.

My Black Mountain after its 30 month/12,000 mile frame-off overhaul in late 2016.

I'm not alone. From his one-man shop, Mike Varley sends his bikes all over, even to the remote back roads of central Iowa. Mark Stevenson, aka Guitar Ted of Trans Iowa fame, has ridden an orange Black Mountain monster cross bike on Iowa gravel for years and regularly writes about it. As a result of Mark's reviews, many others apparently found their way to Black Mountain. To show his appreciation, Mike Varley is sponsoring Trans Iowa this year with a Black Mountain frame and fork to be awarded to the "grittiest rider." Black Mountain Blog - Trans Iowa. How sweet is that.

Now, it's all coming together for me. In April, I plan to journey to Trans Iowa as a volunteer. A Gravel Pilgrimage. Sometime after the event, I'll ride at least a few of those storied gravel and dirt miles around Grinnell on my Black Mountain. Something close to zero percent chance of not doing so.

So, it seems timely to post another unabashed endorsement of the Black Mountain Cycles "monster cross" bike as a rough road slayer. The steel frame with its relaxed geometry and clearance for up to 45 mm tires, paired with a compliant, sloping steel fork designed for rim brakes, create a comfortable, stable ride at speed for long rides on rough roads. Old school semi-horizontal drop outs allow a simple field conversion to single speed for those gravelly mud misadventures. Many other thoughtful features adorn this frame and fork. It's a well-conceived and well-executed bike suitable for all kinds of cycling. It's now the only road bike I own and it's just the right bike for how and where I ride.

For more detailed information about this bike, go directly to Mike Varley's words and pictures on his Black Mountain Cycles website. Black Mountain Cycles.

Addendum. For more details, here's a 2015 post on my rationale of choosing this frame and fork, as well as each component. An All Road Bike. Later I highlighted a nifty frame feature that allows an easy field conversion to single speed, a rarity these days. Make it Single Speed. Then after 30 months and about 12,000 miles of mostly rough roads, I overhauled everything and wrote a seven part series about it. It's TimeFrame and ForkWheels and Tires, Drivetrain, Brakes and Shifters, Controls, On the Road Again. I love my Black Mountain so much that I relinquished my beloved Torelli lugged steel cyclocross bike. Letting Go. Love this bike. I rode it on every ride that made it to this blog, so you'll find pictures all over.

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